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Unhealthy Restaurant Salads

The Pundit and Mrs. Pundit are uncertain if it is love of the Jr. Pundits or a masochistic streak — but we elected to spend the family’s summer vacation in Pennsylvania visiting various child-centered theme parks. For a few days, we are here at the Hotel Hershey visiting Hersheypark. From here we will continue on to Dutch Wonderland and finish up at Sesame Street Place.

Considering Hersheypark was founded on chocolate — the big celebration here is the 100th birthday of the Hershey Kiss — it is interesting to note that the park makes a real effort to have salads and “healthy” fare available at its mostly fast-food eating operations in the park.

Eating the salads rather than hamburgers certainly makes us feel like we are doing something virtuous. And, perhaps, the dishes are even a little lighter on our stomachs as we walk the park under the hot Pennsylvania summer sun.

Yet whether we are extending life span or even doing something to help the Pundit’s more than ample waistline is far less certain.

The problem: We could make the salads more slimming by using lemon juice instead of dressing, holding the feta or bleu cheese, skipping the croutons or roll served with the salad and watch the meat on the salad, but it feels like buying from the salad menu should be enough virtue for a vacation.

AOL has been running a little slideshow on the subject of Unhealthy Restaurant Salads:

Salad Shockers

When you’re watching your weight, salad is an obvious meal choice. But dieters beware: A lot of seemingly healthy salads pack more calories and fat than a plate of french fries. After looking at this revealing survey of some popular restaurants salads, you’ll want to rethink what and how you order.

Saturated Salmon

With ingredients like organic greens, tomatoes and grilled salmon, Ruby Tuesday’s Grilled Salmon Salad sounds like a low-cal lunch. However, with a shocking 590 calories and 35 grams of fat, this salad is not a lean choice. Watch out for the addition of mozzarella, dressing and parmesan cheese, which greatly increase both calories and fat.

Et Tu, Caesar?

Grilled chicken on a bed of greens sounds like a dieter’s delight. But with a whopping 680 calories and 48 grams of fat, Dairy Queen’s Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad does more damage to your diet than their deluxe cheeseburger. Delete the dressing and you’ll reduce the calories to a mere 390.

Going South

While we were unable to find any nutrition information for Chili’s Southwestern Cobb Salad (or for anything else on their menu) on the chain’s official site, published reports put this salad’s calorie count somewhere between 900 and 1,100 calories. That’s more than half the amount of daily calories recommended for the average person trying to lose — or even maintain — weight. While we love a good Cobb salad, for those calories, you could chow down three medium sized slices of cheese pizza.

Waistline Watchout

Walnuts, apples, dried cranberries and lettuce have the makings of a delicious, healthy salad. However, when paired with blue cheese and dressed, like Pizzaria Uno’s Chicken Waldorf Salad, you wind up with a nutritional nightmare. A good way to shave off some of the 920 calories and 62 grams of fat is to get the dressing on the side and strictly limit your blue cheese intake.

Sneaky Salad

Lurking in the nutritious-sounding mix of pistachios, pears, dried cranberries and gorgonzola in Cosi’s popular Signature Salad is 683 calories and 52 grams of fat. The biggest offender? The oil-laden roasted shallot sherry vinaigrette dressing. Forget the dressing and you’ll cut the calories and fat by half.

This Is Nuts

Chicken and pecans sound like a healthy combo. But the sugar-filled “sweet-glaze” coating the nuts, the breading on the chicken and the gobs of blue cheese on T.G.I. Friday’s Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad adds up to a staggering 750 calories and 50 grams of fat. With that calorie and fat count, you may as well eat a burger.

Southwest Disaster

Arby’s Sante Fe salad — mixed greens topped with chicken, salsa, cheese, roasted corn and tomatoes — sounds like a zesty and light dish. But look closely and you’ll see the chicken is battered then fried, as are the tortilla strips that come with it. Add it up and this lunch will cost you a shocking 844 calories and 55 grams fat. Skip the strips and hold the ranch dressing and you’ll skim 367 calories from your plate.

That’s Almost Right

Of all the salads on Wendy’s menu, the Mandarin Chicken Salad seems a safe bet. There are no layers of cheese or even bacon bits, just a blend of lettuce, mandarin oranges, diced chicken, almonds and crispy noodles. So why does this dish carry 520 calories and 25 grams of fat? The sesame dressing packs a whollop. Slim about 100 calories from your salad by substituting a berry balsamic vinaigrette or plain vinegar instead.

It is increasingly obvious that one reason all these various initiatives to change diets don’t have much impact is that they are not reducing calorie consumption. Switching from eating a burger and fries to a salad with cheese, chicken, fried wontons, sugar-infused dried cranberries and luxuriant dressing may help in some minor way we don’t really understand very well — phytochemicals and all that — but to reduce America’s waistline, we need to bring caloric intake in line with caloric output.

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